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The debut from Seattle duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis is a triumph for indie rap, not least because this self-penned, produced and released effort entered the Billboard charts at No 2.
MC Macklemore's lyrics are at once playful and socially aware, tackling op-shopping, substance abuse, and homophobia, as producer Lewis cobbles together an irresistible aural patchwork of alto sax squawks (as on the gargantuan Thrift Shop), minor chord piano thuds and searing nu-soul. Though Macklemore's nimble wordplay is at times plagued by earnestness, there's no denying The Heist's overarching and infectious joie de vivre.
Single download: Thrift Shop
For those who like: Atmosphere, Beastie Boys, Eminem, Kanye West
- John Hayden
Ariana Tikao's reflections on such weighty matters as the Christchurch quakes and the death of a friend mix with songs that explore her personal and cultural history on her third album, a smoothly paced and mellow 11-track work.
The mood is that of an intimate back-porch performance, with Tikao and a small cast of players adding discreet touches of taonga puoro, cello, dulcimer, piano and field recordings to a carefully balanced acoustic-folk set sung in a mix of Maori and English. Te Heke and Something To Give are contrasting highlights on this appealing album.
Single download: Te Heke
For those who like: Toni Huata, Maisey Rika
- Jeff Harford
A covers album by an established vocal artist is hardly new territory, yet New Orleans soul singer Aaron Neville's romp through early rock 'n' roll and doo-wop avoids the bored sighs courtesy of his signature vibrato and falsetto flourishes, as well as production values that focus on the original simplicity of the dozen tracks here.
It could be argued there is little point recording a cover version if you're not going to give it a major reworking, yet producers Keith Richards and Don Was, along with a guest list including Tom Petty's keyboardist Benmont Tench, conjure forth enough groove and grit to coax further listenings.
Single download: Little Bitty Pretty One
For those who like: Jackie Wilson
- Shane Gilchrist